May 27, 2020
By Matthew Shupe
5/10/20 Tough News
The word from the field today is that the ice is active again and Met City is at risk. We had planned to leave our met tower standing and collecting data as the Polarstern left the ice to pick up this new group of scientists. All kinks in the plan had been worked out, and much had been implemented already. But then some winds, another storm…. And more cracks! Met City was already on its own island, a little floe detached from the main floe. Its maximum length is likely not more than 140 meters. But with the new action again, little chunks have been whittled away from the edges. And importantly, there is now a new crack right through the middle of Met City, running between the Met Hut and our tower.
Chris from onsite said that he could feel movement from within the Met Hut! This is crazy as we installed that hut on some very thick ice. But the dynamics are powerful and rumblings can propagate through the floe in any direction. The decision has thus been made to pull the tower down, bringing the equipment back to safety so it can perhaps live to see another day. So today, a heroic effort by many on the team. They lowered the tower, brought most instruments onboard the ship and packed others for transport. Now all of the equipment at Met City has been taken onboard the ship except for the permanent, autonomous buoy systems that will carry the measurements forward. We will still be measuring the ice and ocean at Met City….. We will have one of our atmospheric stations running autonomously while Polarstern is gone as well. But this will be installed on the other side of the shear zone in the ice, closer to some other measurement sites. And hopefully a bit safer on the stable ice there. We will, of course, have to see how this all plays out in the coming weeks. We likely won’t be back there until late in the first week of June, at the earliest.
Scientist Matthew Shupe (CIRES/University of Colorado Boulder) is blogging from an icebreaker frozen into Arctic Ocean sea ice, so far north that the Northern Lights are no longer visible. Shupe is co-coordinator of the international Arctic climate mission MOSAiC, or Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate. Today, he’s among about 100 people aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern, which is frozen into an ice floe where it will drift until September 2020. Shupe, who also works for the NOAA Physical Sciences Division in Boulder, Colorado, began planning the mission more than a decade ago, with an expanding network of scientific leaders from around the world. In a series of short posts from the ship, he shares his experience during the first several weeks of the expedition, led by the Alfred Wegener Institute. Shupe is aboard AWI’s Polarstern until late December; he’ll return to the ship for at least one more two-month stint next year. U.S. funding for MOSAiC sciences comes primarily from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. Follow the expedition: https://follow.mosaic-expedition.org/ and @MOSAiCArctic.